House Finance to consider E-waste bill

While liberals and conservatives square off on the "Economic Growth & Fairness Act," a measure that merits broad support -- making manufacturers responsible for the safe recycling of electronic waste -- is due for consideration in House Finance.

Here's part of what Sheila Dormody of Clean Water Action, which supports the bill, says about the e-waste problem:

According to the state’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Master Plan, Rhode Islanders create 7,500 tons of electronic waste each year. The RI Resource Recovery Corporation’s e-waste recycling program has taken in an average of only 76 tons of computers per year since its inception. While the total tonnage has been steadily increasing each year, it means that RIRRC recycles on average less than 2% of Rhode Island’s e-waste.


“With the new federal rule requiring all TV signals to switch to digital in just over a year, we can expect even more televisions to be thrown in the trash,” said Dormody. “If the general assembly doesn’t require manufactures to cover the recycling costs this session, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for all of that toxic trash.”


On February 17, 2009, TV stations will stop broadcasting analog signals over the airways, and switch to only digital signals. This means that millions of older TVs across the country will no longer receive a signal. Consumers will need to either buy a digital set-top converter box or a brand new TV in order to get over-the-airways reception. Millions of new TVs will end up in the trash as consumers opt for new flat panel TVs. 


Discarded electronic products are a growing part of the solid waste stream. Every year, we scrap 400 million units of electronics in the US, according to the recycling industry. 

In 2006, Tim Lehnert, wrote, in the Phoenix, about the problem:

On the consumer end, disposing of electronic waste is an immense problem. Every year, 100 million computers, monitors, and TVs become obsolete in the US, and this number is growing. Although a lot of this gear winds up in landfills (the US Environmental Protection Agency calls e-waste the leading contributor of lead to municipal waste), most of it is sent to Asia and Africa, effectively transferring the problem to poorer countries.

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